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Five Thoughts for Friday

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Fredrik Claesson should stay in the lineup, Melnyk should #GoWithTheO, and much more in this week’s Five Thoughts!

NHL: Ottawa Senators at New Jersey Devils
Steady Freddy was a major contributor in last night’s win against the Devils.
Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

With the season two thirds complete, the Ottawa Senators still sit in a playoff spot. Five Thoughts is here again, with special guest stars Fredrik Claesson, Craig Anderson and much more! Begin!

Atlantic Antics

The Atlantic Division this season has been a bit peculiar. The Montreal Canadiens currently lead the division with a .603 points percentage, which is the lowest for a division leader since the Washington Capitals led the Southeast division in 2012-13, with a P% of .594. That was before the NHL switched to the larger division format, making our current scenario all the more bewildering. Even more odd: all four Atlantic teams who are currently in a playoff spot did not make the playoffs last year. Detroit’s mind-boggling 25-season playoff streak looks like it will come to a close, and both teams in Florida have had surprisingly weak years after taking the top seeds in 2015-16.

Meanwhile, Ottawa’s been able to benefit from this immensely. Although we’d still be in the playoffs if we were in any other division, second in the division feels a lot more comfortable than being in a second wild card spot. Instead we’re four points behind Montreal and two ahead of Boston, with three games in hand on each of them. It’s been 11 years since Ottawa last won a division title, and the stars seem to be aligning in our favour.

Fredrik Claesson is the real deal

Fun fact: Fredrik Claesson was selected 125th overall in the 2012 KHL draft, 16 picks ahead of Shane Prince.

Now onto the actual thought.

Fredrik Claesson may not be known for lighting up the score sheet, but he’s quietly been emerging as one of Ottawa’s better defensemen. He made that clear night against New Jersey, putting up a 73.91 5v5 CF%. He also logged his second highest TOI of the season, which would be promising except it was only 13:51.

Guy Boucher has not trusted Claesson with a full time roll on this team, which was demonstrated earlier in the month when he was scratched in favour of Mark Borowiecki despite putting up four points in his previous three games. This is beyond me for a few reasons.

The first and largest reason is that Claesson has been putting up fantastic numbers. He’s one of only two Sens defensemen who has a positive Corsi for percentage, his expected goals for percentage is also second among the team’s defense corps, and he’s done an excellent job at suppressing shots to the outside in the defensive end. What makes this situation more irritating is that Mark Borowiecki, Boucher’s preferred player, has been performing poorly in all of these categories (minus shot suppression).

Corsica

Another reason why it makes sense is because him and Chris Wideman played well together in the AHL. In the three seasons they spent together, much of that time was alongside each other on the top pairing. Wideman won the AHL’s version of the Norris trophy two seasons ago, and Claesson was with him the entire way. Now that both are finding NHL success, it really speaks testament to the effectiveness of AHL development.

It’s time to give Steady Freddy a bigger chance. He’s earned it.

New Jersey

The Senators shut out the New Jersey devils last night in a 3-0 win, but that’s not the New Jersey we’ll be talking about today.

You read that right, folks. The Sens have been due for a rebrand for a while, and that time might be getting even closer. Eugene Melnyk has made recent comments regarding the jerseys, saying they’ll be doing research with the fans and players as to which jersey they’ll prefer for 2017-18. Considering Le Collectif amassed over a thousand retweets in support of the Heritage O, I don’t think much research will need to be required (although some still prefer the old 2D design).

With Adidas taking over the jersey supplying for next season, we need to remember that 2017-18 will serve as a transition year, with third jerseys brielfy being removed. Let’s just hope that Melnyk and Planselmi actually go through with this, so we won’t have a endure a full season of the outdated Senturion.

Filip Chlapik is having a breakout season

He may not be as big a name as Thomas Chabot or Colin White, but the Sens’ 2015 2nd round pick is having quite the breakout season. He’s tied for fourth in league scoring with an astounding 29 goals and 78 points in 43 games, and currently on a nine-game scoring streak scoring 23 points in that span. The 19-year-old seems to have made quite the impression, also amassing two goals and an assist at the World Juniors.

His team, the Charlottetown Islanders, are second in their division and on the rise, having won six of their last seven games and eleven of their last thirteen. With other prime talent in Daniel Sprong, Nicolas Meloche and Alex Dostie on their roster, Charlottetown has the potential to go on a deep playoff run and maybe even contend for the QMJHL title.

This is reminiscent of another breakout prospect for the Sens last year in Francis Perron. Also in the QMJHL, Perron was at the top of league scoring and led his team on a deep playoff run. Chlapik signed an ELC in the offseason, so expect to see him start in Belleville for 2017-18.

Craig Anderson is Ottawa’s best

This may not be the most appropriate timing considering Mike Condon’s impressive 21 save shutout last night. However, with Anderson returning from leave and proceeding to put up one of his best performances of the season, it occurred to me that Craig Anderson is the best goalie to have guarded the Sens’ net.

Andy is getting really close to taking a bunch of major titles. He already has the highest save percentage (.920, minimum 100 GP), and has made more saves and faced more shots than any goalie prior in Ottawa. Now he’s close to surpassing Patrick Lalime in wins (needs seven more) as well as games played (nine more). With 27 games remaining this season, it’s likely that Anderson will break both records soon, maybe even in the same game.

Stats aside, it’s overwhelming to imagine what he’s been going through emotionally this season with his wife’s diagnosis, and how he’s been able to stay amazing all the while. Nicholle has recently reached a turning point in her treatment, which is great news for the Andersons and Sens fans alike. His shutout against Edmonton will go down as one of the greatest performances in Sens history, which just further solidifies why he’s Ottawa’s best.

Any thoughts on thoughts? Are you also hoping for new jerseys? Leave a reply in the comments.